First superheroes, then the Middle East then Mr. Sammler’s Planet: reading

While I have most of Hawkman’s Silver Age run in either originals or reprints, a used copy of SHOWCASE PRESENTS HAWKMAN Vol. 1 by Gardner Fox, Murphy Anderson and Joe Kubert did give me a chance to get the two issues I’ve never read. And Joe Kubert’s art on the early stories actually looks a little more impressive in black and white. As the series progresses, though, the stories lose some of their early pulp feel and become (as Murphy Anderson complained in The Hawkman Companion) not that different from the kind of crimes Batman tackled in the Silver Age (with plenty of exceptions, such as the wild alien world of Hawkman #6). Still I’m glad to finally have everything.

FAITH: The Faithless by Jody Houser and multiple artists was the last of Faith’s original series (previous volumes covered here and here), wherein her small rogue’s gallery gathers together with the intent to exact revenge. Can Faith stop them when they’ve convinced LA she’s gone rogue? This is fun, as usual, but the ending felt a little like Houser just had to wrap it up before the book folded. Some great moments, even so.

THE ATTACK by Loic Dauvillier, Glen Charpon and Yasmina Khadra has a Palestinian Arab working as an Israeli surgeon, convinced he and his beloved wife fit in perfectly — until she commits a suicide bombing. Obsessed with understanding how he didn’t understand her, the doctor questions his friends and family, the police, the terrorists in hopes of getting an answer. This does a good job capturing the tangled Arab/Jew politics inside Israel but I wish we’d gotten the protagonist’s view of things (the radicals think he’s an Uncle Tom, but how does he see things?). And the ending was frustratingly trite.

Nothing trite about the memoir PERSEPOLIS: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi, chronicling her growing up during the Islamic revolution in Iran and then the Iran-Iraq War, before being sent out of the country to relatives in France. What makes it stand out is the kind of quirky details American portrayals of the Middle East would rarely think of, such as Satrapi fantasizing herself as Iran’s Che Guevera or hoping she’ll become the Twelfth Imam (a Muslim analog to the Second Coming) so she can heal her grandmother’s aging knees). Not as cute as that makes it sound (Satrapi doesn’t sugar coat the blood and oppression of that era), but very good.

I’d always assumed my parents’ copy of MR. SAMMLER’S PLANET was an SF novel by that Saul Bellow literary guy (hey, Kurt Vonnegut wrote SF!) so when I saw it in the library recently, I checked it out on impulse. And put it down after 30 pages of Sammler reflecting on his life, all the people in it and how violent New York is getting in one long internal monologue (the planet, in short, is Earth, or Earth as Sammler interprets it). Precisely the kind of literary fiction I don’t read — though that’s very much a matter of personal taste.

#SFWApro. Cover by Murphy Anderson, all rights to image remain with current holder.

 

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